Our large intestines—made up of the cecum, colon and rectum—are the last stop in our digestive system. Sometimes, a small growth, called a polyp, can form on the inner wall of the colon or rectum. Although many polyps are benign (not cancerous), some become cancerous when a change in the DNA causes abnormal cells to grow.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States, with 145,000 new cases occurring each year. Though some cases are inherited, for many patients the exact cause can be hard to pinpoint. Treatment depends on how advanced the cancer has become but often includes some type of surgery to remove the tumor.
“Colorectal cancer is one of the more common cancers in the United States, and our teams of physicians and scientists at the Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital are making great progress in developing more effective means of prevention, early detection and treatment,” says Smilow Cancer Hospital physician-in-chief and Yale Cancer Center director Charles Fuchs, MD. “Still, it is important that people discuss with their primary care physicians screening approaches for detecting colorectal cancers and polyps early, especially people who are 50 years or older and those with a family history of colorectal cancer.”